Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Jump That Saved Me

He told me that he loved me. And then two hours later he told me that he's married.

That sent me into a whole new world of emotions I cannot yet describe. Like I was at once falling down a dark hole and completely set on fire. My head ached. My stomach turned. But my heart already knew...

We had a deal. We went on our first date knowing that he would leave town within a few weeks, that I would just be someone to see the city with so he could avoid spending all his time in a hotel room. But I know - after months of Tinder dates - that I can never hold up my end of that deal. I dove in anyway. It's what I do.

Can you believe this is a photograph? Thanks, again, to my amazing friend.

We had our first date. It was great! Our second was better, even more fun, because he dared to venture past the two beers + food repetition I've grown accustomed to with these Tinder-boys. He took me to a museum! Date three, he cooked for me. And it was clear he wasn't going to live up to his end of the deal either. That's when he started reminding me - and himself - not to get attached.

The rest of our time was like magic. He listened. He got me. He could anticipate what my fast-racing mind was thinking next. He enjoyed how big and bright my enthusiasm can be. He appreciated my passion for my job. He constantly reminded me of my beauty. He quieted my insecurities before I even knew they were bubbling up to the surface. He loved me.

And I loved him, too. I said it first. Because I could tell he wanted me to admit it. And even though he didn't right away, it was so very clear that he felt the same way. We cursed each other about it. And packaged our messages of love with our also very honest messages of hate. Because he was leaving. Because we broke the deal. Because this wasn't part of our plans. Because no matter what we felt it was going to end.

Your blood probably is boiling right now, and you're not at all interested in me romanticizing him. But that little bit of magic is an important part of this story. And so is the part where I already knew...

I read once that humor is a key indicator of reality. That often people use sarcasm or a joke to process the thing their intuition is screaming but that their conscious brain cannot yet see. And I had jokes for days about his wife and kids.

When he told me he didn't have Facebook... And then when I saw an alert on his phone and he apologized for lying on our first date, but said he just didn't want me to friend him... When I answered "yes" to his question of whether I thought I was ready for a real relationship, and he quickly reiterated that he didn't mean with him... When he was walking me out of his hotel and quipped that if his colleagues saw him he would have "some explaining to do"... And then, finally, when he mentioned sending "pictures of us" to his sister when they re-connected. And in response to my, "of your wife and kids?" he said, "ask me what you want to ask me, but be sure you want to hear the answer."

And so I asked. Starting with the one I could bear.

"Do you have any kids?"

"Yes, one."

"How old?"

"Five months."

Fuck. Young. Too young probably for a clean-breakup-and-new-life scenario to be anywhere near reality.

"Are you married?"



There was nothing I could say. He offered to leave. I said no, that I needed a minute to process, but then I was going to have a lot of questions. To his credit he stayed. And he answered them all.

You probably expected me to rage. But I didn't. I cried. I was sad. That wasn't how it was supposed to end. That wasn't how it was supposed to be, at all. But I wasn't angry. I was hurt for her, because I've been on the other end of this scenario. And I was hurt for me, because I believed a lie even though I knew deep down that it was a lie.

I fell apart a little. I said the fear-filled thing that I still pray isn't true, "maybe I am cursed in love." And again he quieted my insecurities. He expressed his regret that he let it get this far. He frustration with himself that he fell in love with me, too. When he really was just looking to be not-bored and maybe feed his ego a little bit.

And then he told me all of the reasons that he loved me. How if he were single he would "do everything in [his] power" to make me his girlfriend and keep me forever. Because I'm perfect. And then he promised me that there is a man out there who will love me even better, who isn't also a lying asshole.

I thanked him.

Laugh if you have to! But I did. I hated him. But I thanked him. Because this man, who had literally no desire for anything but carefree entertainment, who had every reason in the world to remain detached, who obviously has severe entitlement issues that probably should be worked out with professional help, couldn't prevent himself from falling in love with me. And had to tell me, even though he promised himself he never would, because he "couldn't hold it inside anymore."

Compare that to the typical Tinder-boy? The typical any-kind-of guy? Or the Ex...

A cheating, lying, asshole raised my standard of treatment from men! Maybe I should work that out with professional help...

He left. I cried a little more and went to bed. I woke up the next day a little stunned and regretful but mostly filled with appreciation. Even in the beginning with the Ex, even after six months of dating again, those few weeks were the first time I've felt what it means to be truly loved. And that knowledge is going to be very useful, already has been very useful. He put me out of my misery with the string of men who never loved me. And now, going forward, I don't ever have to wonder. I know by comparison if the man on the other side of the table recognizes my worth.

As fucked-up as it all is, I am counting that as a gift.

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